Can “America’s Greenest City” Also Be a Shale Oil Powerhouse?

The Shale Gas Boom Hits Nutter’s Philadelphia

Story by Patrick Kerkstra

Illustration by Hawk Krall

Published on Apr 22, 2013

The evidence of Philadelphia’s not-too-distant past as an industrial powerhouse is apparent to anyone who drives by its 14,000-acre oil refinery on the banks of the Schuylkill River. Less than a year ago, this sprawling complex, the oldest continuously running refinery in the country, was on the verge of shutting down. Now, it sees future promise in a recent shale gas boom in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The refinery could serve as the producer of materials used to support the growing industry and bring well-paying jobs to a metro area with a dearth of options for low-education workers. But the city’s manufacturing heyday is long gone, as the main drivers of the local economy now lie in education and medicine, while Mayor Michael Nutter has implemented the ambitious “Greenworks” plan in an effort to make Philly “the greenest city in America.” Longtime Philadelphia reporter and Next City Fellow Patrick Kerkstra sets out to see if clean, new 21-st century Philly has room anymore for dirty, old heavy industry.